|Kobe Bryant's Lakers are the NBA's most valuable team. (Getty Images)|
It might be the only title they win this season, but the Los Angeles Lakers have reclaimed the top spot as the NBA's most valuable franchise.
An annual ranking from Forbes Magazine released on Thursday notes that the Lakers have moved past last year's No. 1 team, the New York Knicks, and are worth an estimated $900 million. That's a staggering 40 percent increase over their 2011 valuation, a gain aided in large part by a massive new television deal signed in February 2011.
The Knicks are worth an estimated $780 million this season, a 19 percent increase over the 2011 valuation. New York added All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony via trade at last year's deadline and signed starting center Tyson Chandler during the December free agency period.
In 2011, New York ($655 million) was No. 1, topping Los Angeles ($643 million). The Lakers had been No. 1 in 2010.
Forbes notes that many of the league's major financial indicators are positive.
Blockbuster television deals and a new collective bargaining agreement have lifted the value of the average NBA team to a record $393 million, up 6.5% over last year.The rest of the 2012 top-5 most valuable franchises: Chicago Bulls ($600 million, up 17 percent), Dallas Mavericks ($497 million, up 13 percent) and Boston Celtics ($482 million, up 7 percent).
The NBA’s TV ratings soared nationally and locally last year, jumping more than 50% on regional sports networks for at least eight teams. TNT and Walt Disney‘s ESPN/ABC pay $930 million a year on average for rights to NBA games nationally. All three benefited from the hype surrounding LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, with ratings up 45% for games on TNT, 30% on ABC and 29% on ESPN. In an increasingly DVR-saturated environment, media companies will pay up for sports — it’s one of the few programming options left that guarantee a large number of eyeballs for advertisers.
NBA revenues hit a record $4 billion last season, up 4.2% from the prior year. The average NBA team had an operating profit (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $5.8 million last year, down 5% from the prior year. That profit is inflated by the top teams as the Lakers, Knicks, Bulls and Heat average $46 million in earnings while the rest of the league had a cumulative loss. Overall, 15 teams lost money, led by the Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies, who both were $25 million in the red.